NASA astronauts aim for Florida coast to end SpaceX flight

Yolanda Curtis
August 2, 2020

The coast phase will take many hours, with SpaceX and NASA expecting the eventual splashdown of the capsule happening sometime around 2:42 PM EDT (11:42 PM PDT) tomorrow, Sunday August 2.

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley says that he and his crewmate Robert Behnken are prepared for the possibility of seasickness.

A NASA spokesperson said Friday that officials are now aiming to land the capsule near Panama City - one of four potential splashdown sites in the Gulf that were preselected by NASA and SpaceX.

"It's been a great two months, and we appreciate all you've done as a crew to help us prove out Dragon on its maiden flight", Hurley told the remaining USA station crew member Chris Cassidy, as Crew Dragon autonomously eased away from its docking port to begin the 21-hour journey home. A backup splashdown zone is off the coast from Panama City, Florida.

On Wednesday, SpaceX and NASA cleared the Dragon crew capsule to depart the International Space Station and head home after a two-month flight.

"She's super excited to be assigned to a SpaceX mission", says Behnken, who says the thing about his return to Earth that he's looking forward to the most is seeing his wife and son.

After retiring the Space Shuttle programme NASA made a decision to work with commercial partners rather than build another transportation system of its own. "That being said, it's a completely different entry profile than what we are used to or had been used to in the Space Shuttle".

The splashdown is the final step in the mission created to test SpaceX's human spaceflight system - including launch, docking, splashdown, and recovery operations. There, the crew will emerge from the capsule and receive all necessary medical test and checkouts.

It will be the first splashdown for astronauts in 45 years.

'And they are off!' the United States space agency tweeted, with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken set to splash down Sunday.

That said, bobbing in the sea awaiting recovery while re-adjusting to gravity after an extended stay in weightlessness raises the prospect of post-splashdown nausea and seasickness.

This photo provided by NASA shows, from left, front, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley during an interview on the International Space Station on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020.

"The flag's all yours", Cassidy told Hurley during a farewell ceremony. "We're going to do it from space and end up in the water", he added. "We have full confidence that the vehicle will perform just like it's supposed to".

He explained: "There are bags if you need them, and we'll have those handy". Flight surgeons will be among the dozens of the recovery team members on site. "So all those things are in place and other than that, it's just time to go give it a try and and see how it goes".

Nasa has contracted with SpaceX and Boeing Co for crew-ferry missions to the space station.

The Demo-2 mission is the final test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft before it is certified for routine crew rotation missions to the station. The American astronauts launched on the groundbreaking test mission from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30th, part of the final test sequence for the crew transportation capsule.

NASA managers say the Crew Dragon has chalked up a near flawless flight, setting the stage for re-entry and splashdown.

"Splashdown is closer than the last time we were asked questions about it, but I still don't feel nervous about it", Behnken said.

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